By Joan Weed, contributor
Here we are with a good foot plus of fresh snow and itching to do some gardening. Still too early for seed starting, except for a couple of varieties. But it is the perfect time for making plans. The catalogues and garden tool offerings have been coming in since before the holidays. I save some but not all. In this stage of my gardening life, I know which ones are trustworthy and which ones I will never order from. Some of my favorites are High Mowing Organic Seeds in Wolcott, Vermont, and Johnny’s Selected Seeds from Maine. If you are interested in natives, try Prairie Moon Nursery in Minnesota. Good sources for heirloom flowers and vegetables are Baker Creek in Missouri and Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa. Digging Dog Nursery in California is a favorite for plants, packaging and customer service. For bulbs (summer and spring) I like McClure and Zimmerman in Wisconsin.
I do support local growers as well. Herbs and veggie starts are supplied by Red Wagon Plants in Hinesburg, and I have many trees, shrubs and perennials from Horsford’s, our neighbor right here in Charlotte. Buying local saves shipping expenses.
Remember when I urged you to keep a journal? Now is the time to check it out. Read your entries by the fire tonight. “Oh, the coreopsis was spectacular, might need more of those…and that green bean that was so prolific? Will do again.” I also keep a compendium of perennial plants. So, if a particular cultivar needs replacing, this is the time to order. Most of these places will give you the option of choosing your send date. Occasionally, I have to keep plants inside for a week or two if I miscalculate. Here I might also draw a line through the ones that didn’t make it. If I really want it in my garden, I might re-order and try a new spot with new conditions. Some plants just get weary and need refreshing. If you loved it, re-plant it. Make lists as you go along, then narrow them down.
Some seeds need stratification. That means a damp and cold period just as Mother Nature has done. There are a couple of ways to achieve this. Plant seeds in containers of moist seed-starting mix and cover and place them in a refrigerator or a cold (not freezing spot) for several weeks. I found Lobelia cardinalis needs this treatment. Another method is scattering certain seeds directly on snow, where they will be stratified and filter down to the soil in time, just as if naturally planted. This method would be good for native wildflowers and grasses. If using this method, overplant, as seeds are food for wildlife. I have had success doing this with annual poppies of various sorts, calendula, nasturtiums. Of course, my garlic has been in the ground since October, ready to spring into action.
This might also be the time to think about the hardscape in your garden. Have you wanted a stone wall, water feature, a patio or paved paths in your beds? It doesn’t have to be done all at once, but each season’s efforts add up to a comforting environment for you and your family. Line up your workers and supplies now. How about ordering a load of compost or mulch? I’ve been reading about “No-Dig” gardening, which has been proven beneficial as it keeps the mycorrhizal networks intact. This fungi is important in breaking down the organic fibers from your compost which are vital to the structure of your soil. There is life teeming in your garden beds unseen by us.
These days I am dreaming of the garden season to come but also taking advantage of the respite and renewal that our Vermont winter offers. What will you try this season? Research and visit websites for ideas and information.
Hope you’ll have something new and exciting to look forward to, as well as the old plant friends from years past.